Craftivists: Why craft can change your life

Here at Mollie Makes, we’re big believers in the power of craft. We know it’s not twee, fluffy or soft (well, it might be depending on what material you’re using, but that’s something else). It has the power to save lives and change the world. And we’re not the only ones thinking this…

Last week, the ever-inspiring Craftivist Collective launched their #wellMAKING garden at London’s Toynbee Hall, featuring over 750 knitted, crocheted and sewn flowers. The aim of the six-month project was to get people thinking about the nature of wellbeing, using craft as a reflective tool. The flower theme was chosen because, as founder Sarah Corbett says, ‘Craft helps you bloom.’

The World Health Organisation defines wellbeing as a state ‘in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.’ Both the Mollies and the Craftivists believe making can help us achieve all these three elements in our lives. Here’s how…


1. Realising our potential
Many of us mistakenly believe that we’re not creative, usually due to insecurities that school managed to foster in us (cheers, Teachers!). Craft is a satisfying, accessible way to rediscover our inner artist, play around and experiment with ideas. It also equips us with new skills – many of us stop learning once we leave education, which can affect our confidence. But once you realise how easy it is to master knitting a scarf, who knows what’ll you’ll be inspired to try your hand at next?


2. Coping with stress
There’s a tonne of research out there on how repetitive actions (such as knitting or stitching) help calm the mind and enable us to cope with stress or trauma. We live in such an overcrowded, digitised world, with a million different things competing for our attention at any one time, so when we sit down to craft we’re taking a break from all of that and letting our minds rest. Some people have even compared crafting to meditation thanks to way it calms and de-stresses the brain.


3. Contributing to our community
Sarah Corbett says she was inspired to pursue her blend of craft and activism after noticing how stitching encouraged her to slow down. “It gave me the space to think ‘How am I contributing to this world? Am I being the best person I can be? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?’” she explains. Craft gives us that space to ponder and think, and so can become a tool for deep engagement with complex issues. We may also establish bonds and communities, whether through craft groups or online, and learn to value the labour of craft over cheap goods.

The #wellMAKING project was funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant and enabled by the University of Falmouth, Arts for Health Cornwall and Voluntary Arts England. You can read the full manifesto on the Craftivist Collective website, as well as stories from other crafters about how making has helped their wellbeing. Follow them on Twitter to keep up-to-date with projects and campaigns.